2023 Vancouver Canadians outfielder Devonte Brown is the latest to take some swings in the batting cage for this edition of C’s Chat.
The Hinesville, Georgia native could be the baseball version of Sweet Georgia Brown if the beginning of his pro career is any indication. A two-sport athlete at East Coweta High School, Brown played football and excelled as a running back by averaging over seven yards a carry and scoring 10 touchdowns, nine of them rushing during his 2017 senior season. The main attraction was Brown’s talent on the diamond. He was ranked as the number-five prospect at shortstop and number 30 overall in the state of Georgia by Perfect Game in 2017. That was after receiving PG’s 2016 PG Underclassmen High Honourable Mention All-America during his junior campaign. Brown’s years at ECHS were all winning years as he helped them capture the regional title for four straight seasons.
Brown headed to Raleigh to join the North Carolina State Wolfpack and he did not see a lot of playing time in his 2018 freshman season, getting just 35 plate appearances but he put up a respectable .343 on-base percentage. He got a bit more playing time in 2019 and batted .286 with an OBP of .393. A stint in summer college ball proved to be beneficial as Brown tapped into his power by slugging .553 with 14 extra-base hits to go along with 22 runs batted in over 33 games with the Brookhaven Bucks. His eight homers helped Brown win the home run crown in the Sunbelt League.
The 2020 season began on a positive note when Brown slugged his first five home runs in his collegiate career and compiled a 1.129 on-base plus slugging percentage in 17 games before Covid put an end to things. He had a 13-game hit streak to start the year and was named the Collegiate Baseball National Player of the Week on February 24.
Brown and the Wolfpack took another step forward in 2021 as they reached the College World Series. He slashed .253/.363/.500 with 11 doubles, 13 home runs and 40 runs batted in. He belted a grand slam against Louisiana Tech to help the Wolfpack win the NCAA Ruston Regional. That was among the three homers he hit during the 2021 Regionals in which he batted .300. The Wolfpack then stunned the number-one ranked Arkansas Razorbacks to advance to Omaha. NC State knocked off Stanford in its first CWS game which included a Brown home run and won its second game against Vanderbilt.
Unfortunately for Brown and the Wolfpack, their CWS dreams would be cut short. They were reduced to 13 players, including Brown after the rest of the squad contracted Covid before their second game against Vanderbilt. The Wolfpack fell 3-1 to the Commodores despite a highlight reel catch by Brown that earned him the Top Play of the Day honours on the ESPN SportsCenter Top 10 list. That would be it for Brown and NC State as the NCAA Division I baseball committee ruled the Wolfpack could not continue to play in the tournament.
The 2022 season saw Brown take over in center field with the Wolfpack after stints in right field and third base. The change of address on defence did not affect his bat as he compiled a batting line of .304/.433/.570 with 15 homers among his 29 extra-base knocks, 44 RBI and six stolen bases. That helped earn All-ACC (Atlantic Coast Conference) Third Team honours.
When the 2022 MLB Draft rolled around, none of the 30 teams called Brown’s name. However, the Toronto Blue Jays signed Brown as a free agent on July 26, 2022.
Brown reported to the Dunedin Blue Jays to start his pro career and collected his first with an RBI single and a walk in his first game against Tampa on August 9. His first home run was part of a 2-for-3 with a walk in another win against Tampa on August 13. Other highlights were a perfect day at the plate in which he went 2-for-2 with two walks and a run batted in at Bradenton on August 25 and he walked off Palm Beach with an RBI single in a 10-inning victory against Palm Beach on September 8. Brown enjoyed another perfect game in the batter’s box with an RBI double, four walks, an RBI and two runs scored in another victory against Palm Beach on September 10. That helped Brown finish up with a .308/.477/.477 batting line with two homers and 15 RBI in 27 games.
In the Florida State League playoffs, Brown contributed RBI singles to drive in the winning and insurance runs in a Game 1 victory over Fort Myers on September 13 to help the D-Jays reach the league final.
Baseball America tabbed Brown as the Blue Jays best late-round pick/non-drafted free agent signing in its 2022 draft report card.
Turning the page to 2023, Brown got some playing time with the Blue Jays in spring training. He connected for a three-run home run against Garrett Hill in Lakeland to cap off a 5-0 victory over the Detroit Tigers. on March 20. However, Devonte did not get credit for the homer as the Tigers broadcast crew identified as Dasan Brown instead. Devonte would get in one more Grapefruit League game as he walked twice and scored a run against Philadelphia in Clearwater on March 28.
Reporting to the Vancouver Canadians to start 2023, Brown had a memorable debut at Nat Bailey Stadium against Tri-City on April 11. He was summoned to pinch-run for Rainer Nuñez who got aboard with a hit by pitch in the bottom of the ninth in a 1-1 game. The bases were eventually loaded and Brown would score the winning run on a wild pitch by Willian Suarez to give the C’s their first home-opening win since 2017.
Brown’s first two hits with Monty’s Mounties were big ones. He hit a grand slam against the Dust Devils on April 13 and his RBI triple capped off a comeback win against Tri-City on April 14. Brown had a three-hit game with a double and an RBI in a win against Eugene on April 29. Another three-hit night came on May 3 in Hillsboro in which he drove in six runs and stole a base to key a victory over the Hops. He had another multi-hit night in another win at Hillsboro on May 4. His second home run of the season came against Everett as part of a 2-for-4 day on May 14 and went deep again in Tri-City on May 18.
C’s Plus Baseball chatted with Brown during the team’s May homestand against Everett. This interview had been edited for clarity.
C’s Plus Baseball – Did you have a favourite major league team or player growing up?
Devonte Brown – I wouldn’t say a favourite major league team, but I guess growing up I kinda liked watching Brandon Phillips and Francisco Lindor. To me, those guys kinda just played the game the right way and they looked like they always had fun. No matter how good or bad they were doing, they always had a smile on their face and they made it seem so fun. So for me just growing up, it was like a reminder just to have fun, be myself, you know? Those guys always seemed like they were always being themselves.
CPB – How did you get started in baseball?
DB – I started at a young age, started playing around three. My Dad was in the military, so it was just kinda me and my Mom and I was always outside running around and my Mom was just like, ‘Oh, we gotta get you doing something’, you know? So she kinda got me introduced to baseball. I just kinda started with that and then stuck with it for a while and I guess it kinda all worked out for me.
CPB – When you look back on high school, is there anything that stands out for you when you look back on it?
DB – I guess I matured a lot since then. Had some good guidance from my high school coaches and a lot of teammates that helped me be who I am today and a lot of outside help too. I think high school was a good experience. I wouldn’t have traded it for anything. It was some of the best times. I had a lot of fun. Great connections that I made with some teammates and coaches. It really introduced me to a lot of things.
CPB – How did you wind up at North Carolina State?
DB – It kinda started in my junior year of high school. Coach Hart (Wolfpack Associate Head Coach Chris Hart) came to see me play during a travel ball tournament during the summer. I kinda talked with ’em a little bit and ended up going on a visit there. Me and my parents went and it was kinda rough a little bit, you know. I’d never been that far from home so I kinda needed some time to think about it. But they were very, very persistent with me and they showed that they cared about me more than just being a player but as a person and you know, they really value getting to know their players and their success off the field, not just on the field. And you can tell they really put everything they have into their players. I think that’s what kinda drew me towards them. And you know, my Mom, the minute we went there and the minute we left she was like, ‘Oh, I love this place.’ And you know, Moms are always right. They have that feeling, you know? So I kinda just trusted that and once I made that decision to go there, it’s probably one of the best decisions I ever made and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. That place is amazing. The people, the city, the fans, the coaches, all the teammates that I met and played with. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
CPB – You had quite the time with the Wolfpack. You had that memorable catch where you got some run on ESPN. What was that like seeing your catch on ESPN?
DB – It was pretty good after the fact. I couldn’t really enjoy it in the moment just because of everything that went down, you know. I was still kinda bummed about it, but after a couple days went by and I started looking back at it, it was a pretty surreal moment. Just looking back at it kinda gave me chills. It was definitely tough to be happy about it, just because of the way things went down. But you know, that was a very cool moment to see and you kinda have that type of thing was really surreal and I was happy about it after the fact.
CPB – Well, things didn’t turn out the way you would’ve liked at the College World Series due to Covid. What are your thoughts when you look back now?
DB – It definitely sucked, but you know, things happen and you can’t change anything about it. But that time there was probably one of the best times I ever had. And you dream about that type of stuff as a kid, being able to live that moment with my teammates and family and stuff, that was amazing. The atmosphere down there, the fans, everybody treats you like you’re famous and you feel on top of the world and it was just an amazing feeling. It’s hard to describe like you just feel so different and everything is just amazing.
CPB – The draft rolls around and you didn’t get picked, shockingly. What was your thought process heading to the draft?
DB – There were some thoughts and some ideas that maybe I’d get taken in the later rounds. The later rounds came and it didn’t end up happening. Me and my family and my (advisor) just kinda hoped for just the opportunity. That’s all we wanted. Nothing too big, just wanted the opportunity. And after the draft was over, probably five, 10 minutes after it was over, the Blue Jays called and they presented the opportunity and I didn’t hesitate. My family was very happy and really just all I wanted was the opportunity. I’m just gonna go with it now and just try to make the most of it.
CPB – Did you have an inkling that the Blue Jays were interested?
DB – Not really. I didn’t really hear from anybody throughout the whole process. I was talking back and forth with my (advisor). We were just waiting for somebody to give that ring to him and then he would let me know, but it seemed like nobody was really budging so we just kinda kept waiting, kept waiting. And then after the draft, the Blue Jays called and presented the offer. I’m happy with how it turned out.
CPB – You weren’t drafted but you get signed, that’s the key thing at the end of the day, but do you feel you kinda have a chip in your shoulder a little bit, that you should have been drafted?
DB – No, not really. I’m really just grateful for the opportunity. A lot of people don’t get this opportunity, you know, and this is something you dream of as a little kid, just to be able to say that you’re a professional baseball player. So I think just taking in that moment and doing the most with it and just not taking anything for granted is the best I can do. And just coming out here every day, giving everything I have and playing the game that I know how to play and playing it the way it’s supposed to be played. Just taking in all the information and leaning on my coaches and teammates and everybody else in the organization and just trying to slowly keep climbing and keep pushing.
CPB – So you go down to Dunedin and you go through a draft camp. What did you think of the draft camp to get you acclimated to life in pro ball?
DB – I definitely liked it and it probably was needed, needed more than you would think. Just meeting those guys that were in that draft class and being able to meet some of the staff and just being taught how things should be done and kinda the way they do things around there. Just kinda going day by day and seeing how they do things and just getting acclimated into pro ball coming from college, you know, they’re kinda different. So just kinda getting used to that and how things are done. I think it was very helpful. It kinda opened my eyes about a couple things and just realized how things should be done.
CPB – When you and the draft class arrived on the scene, uh, things really took off (with the Dunedin Blue Jays). What was your first season like in pro ball going all the way to the league final? That was really an incredible run for you guys.
DB – Yeah, it was. It was definitely a lot of fun. It was kinda easy just clicking with these guys once we got there. All the guys who were already there were very, very welcoming and they took us in and it didn’t feel like we were strangers like we knew each other for a while. And then the guys that I came in with, a bunch of college guys, it kinda felt easy to relate to them too. And playing with them seemed kinda easy. And then once we started playing and got rolling, it was really no stopping from there. We were all having fun every single day. We came in ready to go and it just seemed like we just clicked so easily and we seemed so close. So it just kinda felt like that chemistry was there and I think that’s another thing that helped us too. It was a lot of fun.
CPB – As far as your season went, what helped you be so successful in Dunedin? I mean, you put up some really good numbers there.
DB – Yeah, I think it was just taking away things from college and keeping the mindset that I had. Once I got to Dunedin, just talking with the coaches and everything, getting reports and the routine and stuff and just once I got on the field, I was just kinda being free and just playing the game the way I knew how to and not trying to do too much, you know? Just being as simple as possible and just taking care of the things that I can take care of and handling the small things and not trying to be too big in the moment or do too much at times and just keeping everything simple.
CPB – Anything you worked on in particular during the off-season?
DB – I think just being more aware of myself and my body being more controlled and consistent really.
CPB – I wanted to talk to you about your spring training home run against the Detroit Tigers, though you didn’t get credit for it on the TV broadcast. But take us through that game where you hit one out in Lakeland.
DB – That game was pretty fun, you know. Just being around those big league guys and kinda talking to them a little bit and they were all very, very good guys. Very nice. And you know, once I got in, it was just one of those moments where I try not to let the moment get too big and try not to do too much and just simplify and just, you know, see it and hit it. And I got a pitch that I thought looked good, put a pretty good swing on it, didn’t quite know if I got it or not, so I just kinda took off running. And then once I touched first, I just heard everybody get really loud and I was like, ‘I guess I hit it out.’ Running around the bases I was just like so, so shocked and I just kinda felt numb for a little bit. But that was a very good moment. It was very, very enjoyable. And then once I got back in the dugout, all the guys were just like, ‘Oh my God!’ They were just so happy for me and just being able to see them be that happy for me meant something.
CPB – I’m sure you must have heard from Dasan Brown about the home run as he got the credit for it. I’m sure you guys must have had a laugh about that afterwards.
DB – Yeah, we had a couple laughs about it. He said he got some notifications on Twitter and stuff saying he got credited for a home run while he was sitting at the complex back in Dunedin. He was like, ‘What are they talking about?’ We just kinda laughed about that for like the next week or so. People would call me Dasan and they would call him Devonte. So this was pretty funny.
CPB – Now you’re in Vancouver. What’s your impression so far of playing in the Northwest League?
DB – It’s amazing. The fan base is amazing. They get very loud and they’re very into the game and they’re very supportive. All the guys here, I think we’re clicking very well, we’re all close and the chemistry is there and just some great competition here too. It’s just so fun. You can’t really beat it so you really just gotta take in the moment and enjoy it and just not take it for granted each day. Come out here and just take full advantage of it.
CPB – You had a very memorable debut as a pinch-runner and you scored the winning run in a walk-off victory. What do you remember about that game?
DB – I was kinda watching it, I’m hearing the dugout and I was like, ‘Oh man, we gotta get something rolling here?’ And then Brent (C’s manager Brent Lavallee) told me to start getting loose and pinch run for Rainer (Rainer Nuñez). He was like, ‘If he gets on, we need you to pinch run.’ I was like, ‘Alright.” So I kinda got in there, started warming up a little bit and then Rainer ended up getting on and went in there to sub for him. I pinch-ran and ended up getting all the way to third. And it was kinda crazy because I was talking to Brent. I think Cade (Cade Doughty) had two strikes, maybe a 2-2 count (Editor’s note – a 3-2 count) or something like that. (Brent) was like, ‘Alright, be aware of the ball in the dirt here. Be careful about the pads on the (backstop) because the ball hits the pad and it’s gonna bounce back hard. And I was like, ‘Okay.’ And then as he threw the pitch, it ended up being a breaking ball in the dirt. It got past the catcher, hit off the pad, started bouncing back and I was already running. I was like, ‘Oh I gotta go, I gotta go, I gotta go.’ I ended up getting there, beating the ball. It was kinda surreal to get that first win of the season and be able to be that person to be able to make that happen. I gotta give credit to Rainer for giving me the opportunity to get on base and allowing me to pinch run for him and being able to help my team in that way.
CPB – You hit one out during that home stand for your first home run here in Vancouver. What do you remember about that at-bat?
DB – That was the second at-bat of the game. I was kinda just looking for something in the zone that I wanted. I just wanted to be kinda calm and loose and I’m not trying to be too tensed up as he started to throw it. I saw it was a fastball, middle, maybe inner half and somewhere that’s where I wanted it and I just tried to put a good swing on it. I got a pretty good swing off and kinda off the bat I knew it was gone. I enjoyed it a little bit before running, but that moment hearing the fans and running around the bases and seeing everybody, all the guys on the dugout, just so, so happy jumping around. That’s just something that you want to see as a player. Like your team has your back like that and the fan base has your back like that and you can’t find anybody more supportive than that.
CPB – Your approach at the plate, what’s your game plan when you step into the batter’s box?
DB – For me, I’m just always trying to be in my zone, try not to get too anxious or anything like that and just stay within myself. And then obviously it’s based on whoever’s on the mound and his tendencies and what he likes to throw. So I’ve kinda moulded around that too. But for the main part, I’m just trying to make sure that I put myself in a good position to handle something in areas that I like. Not trying to miss those and not trying to help the pitcher out too much and making him try to pitch to me the way I want to be pitched and kinda put him in a bind. Just trying to stick with that.
CPB – Playing in the outfield. You’ve seen some time in center, you’ve seen time in right and you get work with Dasan Brown in center field. What’s it been like, the outfield chemistry and playing here at the Nat and the various ballparks?
DB – It’s been amazing. All those guys, Alan (Alan Roden), Garrett (Garrett Spain), Gabby (Gabby Martinez), Dasan (Dasan Brown) and everybody else, it’s pretty easy out there. We all communicate very well out there and we have a very, very wide range and we can go get the ball. So it’s kinda easy, especially knowing who’s out there. Like anybody can get any ball so it’s not really too hard. It’s fun. We have a good time out there. We crack jokes, smile. They all make it fun. It’s very enjoyable out there.
CPB – Final question, kinda off the wall. The Canadians have five different uniforms. Do you have a favourite one in the bunch?
DB – I’d probably say I like the black and the retro blues the most.
Devonte Brown File
- Born – October 15, 1999 in Hinesville, Georgia
- Height/Weight – 5-foot-9, 207 pounds
- Bats/Throws – Right/Right
- Uniform Numbers – Wore number 3 with North Carolina State, East Coweta High and the Dunedin Blue Jays in 2022.
- Instagram – @devoo03
- Twitter – @DevonteBrown03
- Walk-up Music – “RealAs It Gets” by Lil Baby feat EST Gee.
- Wolfpack Connection – Brown looks to join fellow North Carolina Wolfpack Jonathan Diaz in the bigs. Diaz, an infielder, was taken in the 12th round out of NC State by the Toronto Blue Jays and had stints in Boston (2013) and Toronto (2014-2015).
- Fun Fact – Brown’s first four hits with Vancouver were all for extra bases (home run, triple, two doubles)
Thanks again to Devonte Brown and to C’s broadcaster Tyler Zickel for the latest C’s Chat.